Saxophones C Melody Saxophones

Manchester, England, England
I've been interested in C Melody saxes, for a while.

Apparently, they were quite common in the 1920s-30s, and the general concensus seems to be that the designs got better as time went on. Earlier models were often made in High Pitch (a tuning system that predates using A=440Hz), and should be avoided, unless you want to accompany a Highland bagpipe player.

From what little research I've done, it seems Conn made some of the better sounding ones, and their later models were improvements over the earlier ones. The ones with a "straight" neck, similar to an alto, are supposed to be good. Personally, I don't really like the S shaped neck on a tenor.

Anyway, here's one I've asked about recently. I've posted a couple of these pictures in Ads's review discussion thread of the Sakkusu C Melody sax, but here's all I have.

This is a 1924/1925 Conn C Melody, currently for sale at the Trevor Jones shop in Bristol. It's in low pitch, has had a partial repad, and is ready to play.

Bristol is a bit far for me to visit so I asked if they could send me photos, particularly of the hand positions, because the ergonomics are a bit different on these old saxes, and C melody saxes in particular.


Ermm... there seems to be a 2 file upload limit. Hopefully, that's per post


The thumb rest is apparently soldered on, so can't be adjusted easily, but the position looks good for reaching the right side trill keys (Bb/C/high E). This seems to be an issue on the Sakkusu / Thoman C Melody (see's Sakkusu C Melody review[/URL])

The "L" stamped below the serial number indicates it's built for "Low" pitch - i.e. designed for modern A=440Hz tuning. I've read different accounts of what was meant by High Pitch (and maybe there was more than one definition), but the consensus seems to be it was at least A=450Hz, or A=453Hz - kind of between semitones, in modern tuning, and too far out to compensate for by positioning the mouthpiece differently etc.

It's important to check for that when buying any brass or woodwind instrument from that period. I think military bands kept it going for a while longer, in Britain. Scottish bagpipe and Irish/Scottish Bb flute players tend to still use it, as I understand it. It's certainly the normal tuning for 5 or 6 key Bb flutes.
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The thumb position is between the right index finger and middle finger, but the trills appear to extend lower than on the Sakkusu / Thomann.
I`d keep them here that way they`ll be here for all to see with the thread - the gallery is limited to a total of 2.5 or 3Mb per person so you`d not have space for your other stuff and when you deleted the Sax Pics they`d be gone forever - Posted here, they`re here with the thread for life (or at least until Pete reclaims thread space years on)
Thanks, Ads. Okay. I'll leave it at that for now, to save on server space. The fifth picture is very like the second one, anyway, with a close up on the stamped serial number etc, showing the patent number, and the letter C above the serial number, which confirms it's a C melody, on Conns. If anyone want to see it, let me know.

Disclaimer bit: I'm not selling this myself, and I've never even been to Bristol, or met the staff of Trevor Jones Ltd. It's just for information.

There are quite a few C melody saxes for sale on Ebay, but mostly in America, where they're apparently not all that uncommon - that's where they were made, of course, until the recent wave of Chinese manufactured ones, starting with the Aquilasax.

I'd be interested to see others that people own or have looked at.

I saw a video from a US tech who seems to know a lot about these things. He recommended straight neck Conns as being among the best vintage C Melody saxes for intonation and ergonomics, particularly the later models:

Personally, I think sticking with almost an alto neck was a good idea in itself, and thankfully, the Sakkusu and Thomann models use the same idea. They also copy the micro tuner adjuster on the neck of the old Conn C Melodys too, though I'm not sure why they felt the need.

A tenor style neck isn't really needed on a C melody (they're quite a bit smaller than a tenor) and apparently makes some models uncomfortable to hold. When I briefly had a tenor, I found it was in the way, and I was peering around it to read the sheet music off my PC. The first U bend just seems like a moisture trap too. As I understand it, some bass clarinets have a water key fitted to empty that out periodically.
I have a Conn C melody, late -27 or early -28. A fine horn. But I don't like the sound of C-melody. I just wanted a nice C tenor. The Conn C melody use to be mentioned as the best C melody. But I have heard nice comments of both Martin and Buescher. I think you should try to get a late one with the latest key design. The c melody saxes were very popular in USA during the 20's. After the Eb alto I think C melody was the top seller sax among the American manufactors. So there are lots of them in USA and the prices are low.

If you compare a modern C melody with a modern one, I'm sure you'll hear some differences. Try to play both before you decide.
That's interesting Thomsax.

I'm still interested in an old, original one, but I bought the Thomann one, based on Ads's review of the Sakkusu and Paul Warner's review of the Thomann, saying he believed it was the same sax (awaiting delivery). I was just in the middle of editing my last post to add that, but it all went a bit wrong and I lost it.

I looked up the prices for train tickets to Bristol, to go and try that one in the first post, but it was about £83 for an off-peak return. I decided to go for the newy-newness, and wait in for DHL instead.

I've recently looked at a couple on Ebay, including a Martin, I think. There was a non-straight neck early Conn, that was very beaten up. I considered getting it to practise doing repairs on, as a long term project, then I read the bit that said the guy had sold the case :rolleyes:. Getting another one would be a bit of a challenge, and there's no way I'd let someone post a sax to me without one.

Importing from America is not totally out of the question. I imported an older student model Vito alto clarinet, and that's worked out well for me. A new one, basically the same but made more recently, costs about £1,800, and there was no way I could afford that.

In this case, the price of a good condition vintage, that's been serviced before sale, is in the same ball park as a new Chinese one. The rest is down to personal preference, but I am kind of fascinated by old instruments. I have a couple of very old brass instruments - one dating from the 1940s. Unfortunately, there's not much that can be done to get those playing as well as they did when they were new, short of spending a lot of money having the valves rebuilt. Old saxes are a better proposition, in that they can be rebuilt to a good standard. There are guys who customise them to make the keywork more comfortable too... e.g. For Sale | Steve Crow
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Most of the old ones sound like cows. I am assured that the modern ones actually sound like saxophones but I've yet to try one.
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LOL Nick - I was looking for the Udders on the Buescher I encountered it was that Bovine in its sound .

The Sakkusu is fine - they stretched a Yani/SA80 cross Alto to play in C rather than copy a 20s Moo
That's intriguing. I wonder how they achieved that effect?

I've heard oboes sound like a singing duck... when I play one, that would be on a good day. I've heard sopranos make that ducky sound too, but I can't manage it, myself. Mine sounds like a tiny tenor, at least it does to me.

Some (all?) of them had a narrower cone angle, maybe because they were originally intended as a parlour instrument, not for the more common purposes saxes are put to now. That would suit me, provided I could get on with the tone. I expect mouthpieces make a big difference - especially if you're playing one with an alto or tenor mpc, that it wasn't designed for.

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The bell is inbetween - Stands are fine in either position setting from what I remember .. the Sak uses Alto mouthpieces (I gave a Rico Graftonite away with mine when I sold it) , Dunno why they bothered with the Microtuner
I have a Wurlitzer C Melody no.132893 that I bought a few years ago because a friend's mother was selling it for peanuts. I had it overhauled but I play it only rarely. It has a tenor-style crook with a very exaggerated curve so that the mouthpiece is about the same level as the top of the body of the sax and this makes it awkward for me to play because I nearly strangle myself getting the sling high enough to play it.
I was told by the seller that it was made in 1930 and Damien (a C-mel player who used to work at Johnny Roadhouse's) told me that it was made by Martin and branded for Wurlitzer. Does anyone know if either of these details is correct?
Damien suggested that I get a modern alto-style crook from Aquila. Does anyone know whether this will fit and work?
I understand that Frankie Trumbauer played C-mel and that's what you hear on most of his recordings with Bix Beiderbecke.
Cool :mrcool. Any pictures, Richard?

An alto style neck sounds like it would help a lot. Thomann sell some (necks in general, not C melodys), but they very dear:

I guess you could try one from a scrapper alto, but you'd need to extend it to get the tuning right, and the octave hole position might not work - you might have to extend it at both ends, somehow.

I forgot to add a link to the website. There's a list of C melody players on there, among other things:

I know Louis Armstrong played with a guy who did, at one point... There's a Lonnie Brown on the list, with Armstrong as supporting cast, so maybe that was him.
Come to think of it, maybe having a new sling ring soldered on, a bit lower, would be more practical.

Slightly off topic, I recently a bought device called SaxHolder v3, which is pretty versatile. It takes some tweaking - like bending a new pair of glasses to fit your ears properly, but I like it. They sell them on Amazon.

I can adapt it for my curved soprano by pulling the string bit through at the back, and tying the ends in a bow. That reminds me of a song * :) By default, it's long enough for my alto clarinet, and they provide a longer string for some unspecified purpose.

* (Bad taste warning:
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